Retiring Arizona Prison Watch...

This site was originally started in July 2009 as an independent endeavor to monitor conditions in Arizona's criminal justice system, as well as offer some critical analysis of the prison industrial complex from a prison abolitionist/anarchist's perspective. It was begun in the aftermath of the death of Marcia Powell, a 48 year old AZ state prisoner who was left in an outdoor cage in the desert sun for over four hours while on a 10-minute suicide watch. That was at ASPC-Perryville, in Goodyear, AZ, in May 2009.

Marcia, a seriously mentally ill woman with a meth habit sentenced to the minimum mandatory 27 months in prison for prostitution was already deemed by society as disposable. She was therefore easily ignored by numerous prison officers as she pleaded for water and relief from the sun for four hours. She was ultimately found collapsed in her own feces, with second degree burns on her body, her organs failing, and her body exceeding the 108 degrees the thermometer would record. 16 officers and staff were disciplined for her death, but no one was ever prosecuted for her homicide. Her story is here.

Marcia's death and this blog compelled me to work for the next 5 1/2 years to document and challenge the prison industrial complex in AZ, most specifically as manifested in the Arizona Department of Corrections. I corresponded with over 1,000 prisoners in that time, as well as many of their loved ones, offering all what resources I could find for fighting the AZ DOC themselves - most regarding their health or matters of personal safety.

I also began to work with the survivors of prison violence, as I often heard from the loved ones of the dead, and learned their stories. During that time I memorialized the Ghosts of Jan Brewer - state prisoners under her regime who were lost to neglect, suicide or violence - across the city's sidewalks in large chalk murals. Some of that art is here.

In November 2014 I left Phoenix abruptly to care for my family. By early 2015 I was no longer keeping up this blog site, save occasional posts about a young prisoner in solitary confinement in Arpaio's jail, Jessie B.

I'm deeply grateful to the prisoners who educated, confided in, and encouraged me throughout the years I did this work. My life has been made all the more rich and meaningful by their engagement.

I've linked to some posts about advocating for state prisoner health and safety to the right, as well as other resources for families and friends. If you are in need of additional assistance fighting the prison industrial complex in Arizona - or if you care to offer some aid to the cause - please contact the Phoenix Anarchist Black Cross at PO Box 7241 / Tempe, AZ 85281.

until all are free -

MARGARET J PLEWS (June 1, 2015)


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Friday, July 9, 2010

Children in prison and broken hearts.

This is a clip from a press release I stumbled across today. CompuMed does tele-cardiology, since the ADC probably doesn't have in-house cardiologists (I'm not all that sure they have regular doctors on site in the prisons, either). It's nothing new and exciting - just a renewal of an existing contract. The ADC is moving increasingly to tele-medicine for other specialist consultations; I believe most jails and prisons are. It'll save them a whole bunch of money in terms of transporting and guarding prisoners when they have to see outside specialists, so look for more things like this in the next couple of weeks as the correctional health care contracts are awarded.

This does leave me wondering if that's the only kind of cardiology consultation prisoners get now, though - an expert reading their ECG reports from afar. The guys in particular are dropping dead of "natural causes" pretty young it seems (though prison is infamous for shortening life spans). In fact, a year ago today a 16-year old boy sentenced as an adult and put in the minors unit at ASPC-Tucson died from heart failure. The whole story of how he got put into prison is pretty tragic, but important for people to know about; I hope they do someday

Edgar's family still doesn't know exactly why he died - I recall speculation at the time that it was his heart. I wouldn't be surprised if the kid had complained of symptoms in the months or weeks or days leading up to his death that a cardiologist - or even a regular physician - would have recognized if he had the chance to see one.
Prisoners who have vague complaints like fatigue, nausea, numbness in an arm, etc. are generally regarded as malingerers just trying to duck work duty for the day or something. And who would think that a 16-year old was going to have sudden heart failure? It may well have been an undetectable and untreatable defect even if he had seen a stellar cardiologist.

The thing is that he shouldn't have been in prison in the first place, but I'm not sure I can tell the whole story right now - the link above takes to you a place before I spoke with people from his school. Largely because of situations like his, I have huge problems with charging, sentencing, and treating children as adults. People are still trying to raise the drinking age to 21 because kids just don't have good judgment all the time, and yet we throw them into adult courts and jails and prisons in a heartbeat. Hooray for the prosecution and judge, protecting us from children like him, making the world safer for - well, not for vulnerable children like him, clearly...

A year later and this young boy's life and death still make me weep. I can only imagine how broken the hearts of those who knew and loved him must still be, especially today. It's not your fault what happened to your brother, your son, or your student. We are an exceptionally brutal bunch, Americans - and Arizona is both racist and fascist. Any other kid - white ones, that is - would have been put through juvenile court, as he should have been. It's not your fault. It's ours. His biggest crime was being a young Latino male reaching for the Dream...he's someone we should have been supporting and celebrating, not incarcerating. I'm so sorry we didn't wake up and step up sooner - it may still take years to really change anything, though...

Anyway, at least CompuMed doesn't have a rap sheet yet with my friends who track the private prison contractors
. They appear to have only been around a few years, though. In any event, I hope they are enormously successful in delivering quality care and never end up on the PCWG's website.

Keep your eyes and ears open for news of the other health care and prison operation contracts - they're supposed to be deciding on them any day, so give me a heads up if you find something out before I do...(bookmark that rap sheet page - we'll be needing it for the rest of them).

Again this is not a news article, it's a press release. This kind of thing just isn't news to most people:

CompuMed Contracts Extended with Oklahoma and Arizona Corrections

Telemedicine Provides Low Cost Alternatives to Costly In-House Prison Services

LOS ANGELES--(BUSINESS WIRE)--CompuMed, Inc. (OTCBB: CMPD) (, a medical informatics and telemedicine services company, has secured extended contracts to provide its signature CardioGram™ electrocardiogram (ECG) remote interpretation systems and over-read services for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (OKDOC) and Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) at selected facilities throughout both states. The OKDOC rents 21 CardioGram systems, and the ADC owns 45 CardioGram systems...


Don't bother reading more of that; it's all PR. I guess I just needed it to ease into what was really on my mind tonight...Edgar and his family, and all the other broken hearts out there because we put children like him in prison.